The Mighty Shin Splint

My recent participation in the Devil ‘O the Highlands footrace had an almighty sting in the tail: shin splints!

Can I just say here and now: extremely painful, crazily painful, OMG! This is the woman who handles pain well and who gave birth to two children with zero pain relief. There have been times in the past when I thought that I had shin splints: oh no I haven’t; I am now fully aware of what is and is not a shin splint.

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‘Shin splint’ is a bit of a catch all term for lower leg pain occurring either on the front outside (anterior) part of the leg or the inside of the leg (medial). They are often most painful when trying to lift the foot up at the ankle and try to flex the foot. It most often affects your dominant side.

What exactly is a shin splint you may well ask? There does not seem to be a consensus and theories include; small tears in the muscle that has pulled off the bone; inflammation of the thin sheath of tissue that wraps around the shin bone (tibia); inflammation of the muscle, or a combination of these.

For me it started with a bit of discomfort during the event, a haematoma up the outer side of my shin and increasing pain post-race and over the next 48 hours. The haematoma dispersed and was replaced by a large area of inflammation round my lower leg and some swelling round the ankle and of the foot and I was struggling to weight bear. I have both anterior and medial shin splints.

What causes shin splints? The most common causes are: shoes, lack of training, duration or distance, terrain. Often they are summed up as ‘too much too soon’. Tight calves and Achilles can contribute too.

I just got a full house in ‘Shin Splint Bingo’, give that girl prize!

When I ran the Devil I was on ‘Plan Z’ as I was under trained, short on miles; it was 43 miles over rough terrain with a lot of ascent; and, as it turns out, I wore the wrong shoes going for lightweight and aggressive resulting in impact and a lot lateral movement. I had also had Achilles issues and a tight calf in the spring and early summer.

My prize? The significant pain that kicked in post-race; a trip to minor injuries for x-rays; five sessions of ultrasound; hobbling around on a crutch for a few days; several miles of rock tape and no running for a further two weeks (a total of four weeks). My next race is a no-go, the one after that at risk and everything is crossed that I make it out to Carcassonne at the end of October.

I have paid a high price for plan Z.

Although it could have been worse: a stress fracture or compartment syndrome.

Things are looking up however, and my quite literal despair of last week has lifted. My recovery has been good and quick, but there is a fair way to go. I am more or less pain free and walking freely without a limp.

I have been given the Ok to swim, pool walk and cycle on low resistance. Of course I can do core strength (no planks) and upper body strength work. I will increase my walking and then gradually introduce lower body strength work as long as it is pain free. Running (with a strap support) can recommence in two weeks as long as I am pain free.

The stakes are high. I want to be able to at least attempt the Raid des Bogomiles in October and so will be on my best behaviour: promise.